Birthday party caused spread of 4 of CDO’s 5 confirmed Delta variant cases

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 21 July) – Four of the five COVID-19 Delta variant cases in Cagayan de Oro could be traced to a birthday party on June 18, according to Dr. Joselito Retuya, chief epidemiologist at the City Health Office.

A worker unloads oxygen tanks outside a hospital in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday (21 July 2021) as local health officials warn of a possible outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19. MindaNews photo Photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Retuya first made the announcement during the city government’s daily press conferences last Monday, wherein he said he presented the information to the visiting members of the National Inter-Agency Task Force, which included Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Retuya said that the “common index case” of the four Delta variant cases resides and works in Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon but came to Cagayan de Oro on June 18 to celebrate his birthday with his family. His wife and three children, along with two extended family members, are residing in an apartment somewhere in Barangay Carmen because the wife works in the city.

Retuya said the index case, a 39-year-old male, already had complaints about his health at that time but ignored the symptoms while celebrating his birthday. He stayed with his family for two more days before going back to Bukidnon.

In the household who celebrated his birthday with him were six family members: his 35-year-old wife, 14-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, 62-year-old mother-in-law, and the latter’s 61-year-old sister.

Upon arriving in Bukidnon, the index case initially underwent rapid antigen test and was found to be reactive, Retuya said. While under isolation, he was swabbed for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, and the positive result came out the next day.

His family, meanwhile, started having symptoms in the next few days.

“There was cough, loss of smell, colds, fever, sore throat,” Retuya said, adding that they all stayed at home at that time and the wife did not report for work.

They were brought to a city isolation unit (CIU) on June 26, and swabbed on June 28, the results coming out in the evening.

Dr. Joselito Retuya, chief epidemiologist at the Cagayan de Oro City Health Office. Screen grab from the CDO Facebook page

Five were found positive of COVID-19, with only the daughter found negative, Retuya said. Subsequent testing by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) at the University of the Philippines in Manila showed that the wife, the 14-year-old son, and the two senior citizens were positive of the Delta variant, he added.

But Retuya pointed out that the samples taken from the five-year-old son and the only daughter did not undergo genome sequencing to test for variants, and so was their father’s. The PGC usually only does random tests for the various COVID-19 variants because of the more rigorous process involved and it has limited capacity.

All five positives in the household were later “certified recovered” from COVID-19 and ordered to go home, but then the Delta variant test result came.

Retuya said they were instead transferred to a Department of Health (DOH) isolation facility, and reswabbed by the DOH. They turned out positive, but the health official said they still have to show the results to infectious disease specialists who will finally decide if they are indeed already recovered or not.

Meanwhile, the fifth Delta variant case, a married 32-year-old male hospital worker who was fully vaccinated with Sinovac in March and April, first noticed mild symptoms on June 26.

Retuya hinted that the hospital worker, who is in the dietary department, could have been infected while going around the hospital bringing food to patients.

Retuya said he was swabbed on June 28, then transferred to a CIU after he was found positive. He was certified as recovered on July 9 and sent home to finish his quarantine there. But when the Delta variant result came, he was extracted from home and transferred to a DOH isolation facility on July 16.

He was swabbed on July 17 and tested negative.

But upon testing his family, Retuya said the hospital worker’s four-year-old son and one-month-old daughter turned out positive of COVID-19 but all asymptomatic. Spared was his 35-year-old wife and six-year-old son.

Retuya, however, noted that all the family members’ samples did not undergo genome sequencing for the variant test.

Mayor Oscar Moreno, meanwhile, said that it is safe to assume that there is already community transmission of the Delta variant.

“We are preparing for a worst-case scenario,” the mayor said.

Emiliano Galban Jr., DOH-10 spokesperson, said some 26,000 vials of Johnson & Johnson vaccines – 10 doses per vial – arrived Tuesday for Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog cities.

Vaccine czar and IATF chief Carlito Galvez promised Mayor Moreno and Gingoog Mayor Erick Cañosa last Monday the government will send more of the single-shot vaccine if they can increase the vaccination in their respective cases.

A commotion happened at one of the vaccination centers in a shopping mall here Wednesday when people flocked as soon as they heard that health workers would be administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Moreno appealed for calm and assured that elderly persons would be given priority of the single-dose vaccine. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)